"When Local Means Utah to Yuma"
When i told my editor i was going to disorganize a run for US Congress chasing after the newly formed open seat for AZ CD4, the left coast of AZ, a land area about 1/3 of the state; he wrote back saying to write about the way my campaign affects local politics. I, at first, admit i was at a loss. At the time i was planning my first real deal campaign trip (9 events, two days, 500 miles), from my hillside themepark in So-Hi, AZ overlooking the lights of Golden Valley all the way to the Roosevelt Art District of small-D downtown PHX, where the cops and municipal codes have managed to yet again gut another arts movement in the name of building codes. I was on the phone trying to unlock the secret codes of the gatekeepeers at the DCCC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in DC and the PCCC Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Code Pink, ADP, PDA in PHX, folks in Flagstaff, Colorado, New Mexico & L.A. US House of Representatives is a world stage, setting up fundraisers in Flagstaff, Vegas, L.A. Bullhead City and Yuma, lined up graphic artists in PHX, Tucson and Sante Fe to help me, had lined up $2500 in media work from folks in L.A. and was courting my friend the media guy in Montreal. when they FEC says you must raise $5000 to get on the ballot and your media guys and lawyers have begun donating that to you, suddenly, local takes a whole new meaning.
Is it like the horns that honk or the birds that fly when we Occupy Kingman at the historic Locomotive Park. Kingman is my little town from where i'm launching this trial balloon, so local means whether or not we block parts of the street in May when we host the annual KABAM ("Kingman Area Books Are Magic!") book festival May 14-19. But how about the folks like the Wickerds up in Dolan Springs? What is local in their vocabulary? Perry and Donna had been aming 80 mile round trips to be part of the local Occupies KIngman, my home base. Traveling with their kids and guitars, like devotees to the bigger little city to call for justice, for months, when i announced this testing of waters. It is the term of art for this stage of the candidacy process. So you know me, with my with four houses in Aquarius and Aries rising, you know that i had to be in. But what about Perry and Donna? What makes them want to follow this campaign to the point at Perry met me this morning in Dolan as we attended the candaitdates forum for the Dolan Springs Community Center, then when i had to leave for Kingman fo the next event 52 year-old Perry stuck his thumb out and hitched to Kingman just to ride this wave and see if we can get big enough to change the world from our little neighborhood in the desert. Why not? If the only thing that every changed this world was a small group of dedicated activists imagine what we can accomplish now that our neighborhood stretches from sea to shining sea?
Today Perry is up with me at 4:00am as we strategized for our big deal disorganization meetings in Cave Creek, Carefree and North Phoenix, in addition to our Sunday morning "Come to Jesus meeting" with the PHX team at Klang Gallery, owned and operated by poets in my district, Neil & Heather Gearns from Apache Junction. The PHX end of this district have the excess of what we country folks have mostly dreamt of: arts excitement, music. Connecting to that neighborhood, in itself, is already improving the lives of the people in my district as i organize actual poetry events in Prescott, Kingman, Bullhead City and even Seligman (which is not in my district, but deserves poetry too). Now will my quest for this world stage to change the lives of all these neighbors how will it affect the poetry events i bring. That is local.
Up in Dolan Springs, "local" is having no bank and/or having to pay $3 per transaction at the Double D Market's ATM and/or their $3 a lb. for green tomatoes and greasy frozen beef. Eat what's local or drive 40 miles to and then 40 miles back from Kingman, or 70 miles up to Vegas. Their bank deserted them in the desert twice and now, even banking is too rural to live like you are part of what is supposed to be America. Dolan Springs boasts a road grid that is immense, nearly large as large as Rhode Island, but isn't more than 7000 with half of them as destitue as that bank. No sidewalks, they're told it wrecks the tourism and they need to become quaint little backwards too silly to put in sidewalks, so the tourists will dribble some money their way as they fly through on their way to the next cute thing.
Or maybe, since this district does run from Yuma to Utah and from Bullhead City to Apache Junction, maybe local means the cool modern office i am clacking away on at 4 in the morning in Moon Valley. The Sub Zero fridge is stocked with assorted beers cheeses and fresh juices, and the patio has hand thrown oval concrete tiles. These are also some of the neighbors in my district as well, among the rows of villas disguised to resemble rows of walls and windows. My PHX area coordinator Nina Smith is working out the details to help me disorganize in the big city mis-week while i motivate school kids in Kingman 200 miles away at my day job as a social studies teacher. You know, one day i asked my kids,"Come on, you guys, don't you even know what apathy is?" And they called back, "They don't care!" In many ways, i began running that next day. Is local politics stopping at the tourist attraction at mile 123 in Wickiup where the locals hope to have some of that cash dribble off each turnip truck that passes and being in the desert they are a bit rare?
Is local the fact that once the election season FINALLY kicked off following Jan Brewers' recent "scandal of the week" when she tried to fire Independent Redistricting Commission and failed, Well, when the numbers came back, it was revealed that the AZ Dem Party had neglected the entire left half of the state to the point that it would only take 700 signatures to run for Congress. 700 people who can spell their own name and you get a spot in the ring at one of the biggest arena's on the planet. Is local politics the fact that two years ago , my neighbor and opponent in this race, Ron Gould, in public, dissed me at one of Beth's campaigns at a country club in Fort Mohave and said that he did not have to talk to me because i was just a candidate's spouse. If i wanted to ask questions of him or challenge on the BS that was spewing out of his mouth that night like a fresh stream of Santorum,theni could just put my name on the line and run against him myself. Howdy Ron! I'm your new neighbor. Is that local enough for ya? I chased State Representative Doris Goodale and her husband Kingman mayoral candidate Bill, around Dolan Springs to make sure they'd share this juicy bit of neighborly gossip with our mutual friend, Ron.
A shot at the world stage if i can find among the 700,000 souls in the district, just the names of 700 people willing to say "sure." That is all it will take petition-wise and i got to pick them from among the entire populations of the river cities (Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, Parker, Fort Mohave) and Kingman in Mohave County, Yavapai, La Paz, Maricopa, Gila, & Pinal Counties. Surely there are 700 people in that area that could believe i should have the chance to chase through life following 20 hour days not to win an election, but merely to change the world. Jesus, there are probably that many people in that area who believe in flying saucers or Santa, so why not?
Once i am listed on the nationalballot for this race, just how big does that neighborhood suddenly get? Well i am already cahsing noted Ron Goul-hater Stephen colbert for his super pac muscle since they did a Gould skewering back in Feb. People say i am crazy to try to win, but i l already knew that. They say i don't even know how to dress like a real politician, but since when did we start being required to think real democracy could demand a dress code? Insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, these are my issues and far as i can tell after 16 days campaigning, that is a message that sells just about everywhere. The right are already leaving folks out all over America as fast as they can. Maybe i can do this differently. They say the traditional are the ones i should follow but look at the messthose guys made. If they left a gap in the matrix for a guy like me to slip in, what is that saying about their skills anyway? And how about all the folks who get left out, like the majority of my district, the folks not cut into the gerrymandering of Phoenix proper, the rest of us? Why not? Lots of places in western AZ have water. Why not test it?
Why not test the waters and see who wants some of this Koolaide? So, sitting on a bench in front of Jo-Bot Coffee tonight in the art district conspiring with one of the "Marks" from Haymarket Squares about how to turn their upcoming show at Lost Leaf on the 17th into my anniversary party. Small wonder i find myself discussing my energy and charts with Wiccans in Dolan and the artists in Cave Creek's garden party for the Phoenix Art Expo in another, (both of which were held on dirt roads).
Local i guess is a way of saying intimate. If i have learned anything in this crazy campaign to defeat the three headed dog the GOP fields as Babou, Gozar and Gould, then this is an incredible intimate experience of watching people cry as they remember how to believe, one neighbor, one Occupy protester, one heart breaking story, one honked horn at a time.
Of course local also means that since my papers are already filed with the FEC, when i cross that $5000 finish line and the 700 folks on the street who can sign their name correctly, suddenly my neighborhood includes both Hollywood and Washington and all us fly-overs in between. I mean what is more local than my circle of friends on Facebook? Like Big Tuttie, the tug boat guy in Texas, who hasn't seen me since my first wife died, but has been my devoted friend since we were too young to go to public school and were taught fire and brimstone at our local Lady of Guadalupe in Raymondville, Texas back when there were still Kennedys and Kings leading the way. Yes, those folks seem a lot more local than the shuttered windows and the closed businesses on the main streets of Kingman, Dolan, and any town, AZ, since the shooting phase of the class warfare began and i decided to Occupy whatever strength i had left to work for my country and,if nothing else, at least burn out trying one more time to keep it from going down in flames.
Tomorrow it's the Yavapai leg and meeting patients in Cottonwood and Christians in Prescott, as well as a former congressional campaigner whose offered to earn his own salary. Why not? This is America and there are few things more capitalist than running for office. Of course the bigger this gets the money beans pass through the factory the more bean counters we'll attract, which means we'll have ever more beans for them to count and at some point this disorganization just won't be so local anymore.
mikel weisser-writes from left coast of AZ